Friday, February 11, 2011

The Way We Walk

Today, as I made my way in the city center (or, rather, the City Centre as it's written on all the signs from Fulford Road on into York) I tried to really look at people as we crossed paths. Their faces so often seemed etched with concern. Most of us, I realize, look down as we walk, bundled up with our scarves, our coats zipped up to just beneath our chins, considering how we'll make it through the day, what we'll do about the problems that face us, how we'll find some way of living with freedom and hope.

As I passed the huge diggers that line a section of Main Street, I recalled how Tyler and I stood in front of them only yesterday, his eyes gazing on them as though they were a gift from God, placed there with their metal shovels, mounds of dirt, and massive wheels for his viewing pleasure.

Where are the diggers for us adults? What are the visions that call our eyes to look up and out upon something that warms us?

I think that for most of us, we reach a certain age and the idealism, perhaps, kicks off. Change the world? Naw. Too difficult. Too complicated.

Love in freedom? Hah! Impossible. Too many problems. Too many people telling us it's not that easy.

Do what brings joy to your heart? As if! Anyone who thinks it's possible to live in a world where capitalism is king and still follow your dreams--well, you haven't woken up yet. But you will. (Voice furrows eyebrows and nods slowly) Oh, you will.

Whatever reasons we have for letting go of simple joys like seeing a digger on the sidewalks of our lives, we do. It happens to us all. It's the time-tested and impenetrable subject of all great literature, from Homer to Shakespeare to Harper Lee to Toni Morrison.

Our English teachers (including myself, here) call it The Journey from Innocence to Experience, and I'm sure many of us have filled in flow charts and graphs finding the precise points when characters let go of Innocence and claimed Experience as their rallying cry.

And right they should. There is, truthfully, no other way.

But the question that ping-pongs itself back and froth across the gooey web of mess behind my eyes is: Whoever decided Experience would only have one face?

When we walk, most of our hearts are heavy for two reasons, I would venture: money and success. We have neither and want both. We have one but not the other. We have both but want more.

We tell our wive or husbands to wait. We tell our kids to hold on. We laugh our hearts down and we bully our souls. Not down, dang it all!

Instead, we must get a little more money, a little more success.

We convince ourselves--like heroin addicts--that one more hit will be enough. Just one more promotion. One more sale. One more account. One more title.

Just a bit more money. A touch more for retirement. A few extra dollars in this account. A bit more spending cash. Then--YES! THEN!--everything will be good and there'll be time to hug our kids and talk to our husbands and wives and listen to our hearts and remove our hands from the mouths of our souls.

Yes: Then there will be time and there will be space. Just let us finish our checklist of Capitalism's Approval! Is that so hard?  Sheesh!

But then, there's the way we walk.

That stubborn demonstration of what's really going on inside us. Who we really are.

See, we don't walk like a free people.

We don't walk with our heads facing up and out.

We don't walk with a sense of authenticity about us.

We don't walk like people who feel pain but band together and somehow make it through.

We walk like people who live in captivity, constantly reminding ourselves that one more slice of the pie will bring us just enough freedom to let go of the whole game, once and for all.

But the truth is: no one wins. None of us, no matter how much we dedicate our lives to the gods of money and success, ever win.

And that, I think, is the real reason we walk the way we do. Deep down, we know it. We know we can never win. But, what would everyone think of us if we stopped playing the game?! How could we!? They'd think we have gone mad!

But maybe we'd walk a little freer. Perhaps we'd hug our kids a little tighter, listen to our wives and husbands a little more, laugh a little easier.

The interesting thing about walking is that you can do it differently every time out. Just because we may have walked a certain way into work today, doesn't mean we have to walk that same way home. There are countless ways to watch your feet slap the pavement of time, countless paths to take, countless visions to behold.

Maybe it's time to try something different. After all, who knows what diggers may sit on the sidewalks we have yet to discover.